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Are Mystery Shoppers Such a Bad Idea for Health Care Quality Improvement?

The decision by the Obama administration to employ “mystery shoppers” to pose as patients to see how difficult it is to get an appointment with a physician has sparked criticism from physicians. However, access to primary care physicians is a very real public policy issue that needs to be understood if we are to successfully care for the more than 30 million Americans who receive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.Is the use of “mystery shoppers” a bad idea?

Dr. Raymond Scalettar certainly thinks it is a bad idea. “I don’t like the idea of the government snooping. It’s a pernicious practice – Big Brother tactics, which should be opposed.”

Dr. George Petruncio says, “This is not the way to build trust in government. Why should I trust someone who does not correctly identify himself.”

Westby Fisher, MD writes in his blog: “When information gathering trumps patient care – particularly fictitious care – we’ve got a problem. Is this a new quality standard we can expect from our new government health care initiative?  Just like scam-artists that phish for unsuspecting people’s financial information online, governmental appointment phishing should not be tolerated in any way, shape, or form. It is fraud – plain and simple.”

Several physicians on twitter retweeted Dr. Fisher’s blog post and indicated they agreed with his analysis.

 

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